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CYF ‘may have saved lives’
By MARC GREENHILL and JO McKENZIE-McLEAN – The Press
Last updated 05:00 12/09/2009
IDENTITY REVEALED: Murder accused Jason Somerville who appeared in the Christchurch District Court, charged with murdering his wife Rebecca and Tisha Lowry.
Removing three children from a couple now at the centre of a double-murder case in Christchurch may have saved the children’s lives, says Child, Youth and Family (CYF).
Jason Paul Somerville, 33, appeared briefly in the Christchurch District Court yesterday charged with murdering his wife, Rebecca Sarah Somerville, nee Chamberlain, on August 30 this year and neighbour Tisha Lowry on or about September 25 last year.
Police found the bodies of the two women buried under the floor of Somerville’s Aranui house on September 4.
Name suppression was lifted as an expressionless Somerville was remanded in custody for a post-committal hearing on November 12. His lawyer, David Ruth, said a psychiatric assessment would be done “at some stage”.
The Somerville’s moved to Christchurch three years ago from Taupo after their three children were removed by CYF.
CYF head Ray Smith said he was confident the agency had “done the right thing by these children”. He said CYF had worked hard over a long period to strengthen the family so they could stay together.
“Sadly, when all attempts to address the complex issues facing this family had failed, we were left with no choice but to seek permission from the courts to remove the children from their parents’ care,” he said.
“It may very well be that the decision to do so saved their lives. This is an extremely sad case. There are now three children without a mother.”
Peter Burns, who acted as a Christchurch Family Court advocate for the couple in their attempts to get their children back, said Rebecca Somerville was “immensely upset” that the children were not returned after believing she had met CYF’s 17 requirements.
“She had cleaned herself up, relocated and done everything they requested, and she was still without any chance of retrieving the children.”
He said she had written a letter outlining her case in April this year with the aim of getting a lawyer to represent her.
Somerville said she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after previous abusive relationships.
Her first child from a previous relationship was removed from her care as an infant but returned in 2002.
She married Jason Somerville in 2003, and their first child was born in April that year.
After their children were removed in 2006, the couple were asked to seek further family support, and moved to Christchurch, where Jason Somerville had several relatives.
Rebecca Somerville said in her letter that she became depressed, which led to drinking and self-harm. However, she said she was alcohol-free and had not self-harmed in more than two years at the time of writing the letter.
Burns said he could not find a lawyer to take the case, despite a dozen approaches.
Judging the validity of CYF’s comments that removing the children may have saved their lives was a “tough call”, he said.
Somerville’s funeral service will be held at her former Taupo Baptist Church at 1pm today.
Church senior leader Keith Harrington confirmed that her three children would attend, but he did not want to comment on their care. “We have been in contact ever since this happened, but we’re very protective of the children.”
The carers of two of the children were church members.
Harrington was surprised by comments from CYF that removing the children from the couple may have saved their lives.
“No-one I’ve spoken to, including professionals, had predicted possible events like this. I suppose it’s speculation, isn’t it?”
The Chamberlain family said in a statement that she was “a well-loved member of her family and had many friends”.
“She was struggling to get her life back on track and was making good progress and we are proud of her and her achievements,” the family said.
“This is a terrible tragedy for the three families involved and we feel for their loss.”
At the same time as the Taupo service, Lowry, who also had three children, will be farewelled at a private family service in Christchurch.
Lowry, 28, disappeared as she was walking to her Hampshire St home, two doors down from the Somerville house, on September 25 last year.
Jason Somerville was a keen Trade Me user, buying more than 100 items since becoming a member in February 2007.
His purchases reveal he was keen on do-it-yourself projects, buying many building construction books and equipment. He liked rebuilding old arcade games and bought parts. He often bought books, including some on quitting smoking, and on religion. His latest DVD purchase was World Trade Center.